The present case in hand is founded upon the appeals that arouse out of two consecutive W.P. which were filed in public interest by the appellant Cricket Association of Bihar before the High Court of Bombay seeking writ of mandamus directing BCCI to recall its order constituting a probe panel comprising of two retired Judges of Madras High Court to enquire into the accusations made of betting and spot fixing in IPL made against Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan. In furtherance, the High Court passed an order in Cricket Assn. of Bihar v. Board of Control for Cricket in India granting the relief but refusing a possible reconstitution of the panel.
The abovementioned order passed by the High Court has been assailed by the aggrieved BCCI. Further, the Cricket Association of Bihar prayed for orders for elimination of Respondent 2 from the post of President of BCCI and also orders pertaining to the cancellation of the franchise favouring Chennai Super
Kings and Rajasthan Royals for the future IPL matches that are to be conducted. The legality of Regulation 6.2.4 of the BCCI Regulations for Players, Team Officials, Managers, Umpires and Administrators was also challenged.
It is important to note that BCCI under the provisions of Tamil Nadu Registration of Societies Act, 1975 is a registered society. Mr. N. Srinivisan i.e. respondent 2 in the present case is the President of the Board besides being the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of India Cement Limited i.e. respondent no. 3.
A committee called the IPL Governing Council was formed which constituted of the general body of BCCI to run the IPL. The Council in December 2007 invited tenders for grant of IPL franchises on open competitive bidding basis, and only the corporate bodies were permitted to take part. The result of which was that, India Cements Ltd. emerged successful in the auction for the Chennai franchise, and the final team was called the Chennai Super Kings. Jaipur IPL Cricket (P) Ltd. partially owned and promoted y respondent 5 assembled a team named Rajasthan Royals, emerged successful for the Jaipur franchise.
On 27th September 2008, Mr. N. Srinivisan was elected as the Secretary of BCCI in a general body meeting. In the same meeting events like IPL and Champions League Twenty20 was excluded from the operation of the Regulation 6.2.4 of the IPL Regulations by way of an amendment.
On the receipt of the secret information that certain members of the underworld were involved in fixing of matches, the Special cell, Delhi Police detained Mr. S. Sreesanth, Mr. Ajit Chandila and Mr. Ankit Chavan of Rajasthan Royals along with 7 bookies for allegations of spot-fixing. Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan was also arrested by the Mumbai Police in a case of spot-fixing/betting. It was later announced that, a commission comprising of two members of the BCCI and one independent member would be established to enquire into the allegations of betting and spot-fixing. Mr. N. Srinivisan also announced that he shall step aside from the post of President of BCCI until the enquiry was over for the reason of the alleged involvement of his son-in-law in spot-fixing and betting.
ISSUES AND JUDGEMENT
The questions or issues that fall before the Hon’ble Court for its determination are as follows:
Whether the respondent Board of Control for Cricket in India is “State” within the meaning of Art. 12 and if it is not, whether it is amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India?
While answering this question the Court looked into the definition of “State” as provided in Art. 12 of the Constitution of India. It observes that the Art. 12 give a definition of the “State” which is inclusive and not exhaustive. The expression “State” includes Parliament of India, the Government, and the Legislature of each of the States and local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India. It has been laid down that BCCI is not a State within the meaning of Art. 12. The Court in this regard referred to a few landmark judgements which will provide a judicial backdrop as to what is binding upon them.
Board of Control for Cricket in India v. Netaji Cricket Club , the Court in this case measured the role and the nature of functions being performed by BCCI. It observed that the Board performs functions that are public functions and which further makes the Board obligatory to abide by the doctrine of “fairness and good faith”. This Court opined that:
“80. The Board is a society registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act. It enjoys a monopoly status as regards regulation of the sport of cricket in terms of its Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association. It controls the sport of cricket and lays down the law therefore. It inter alia enjoys benefits by way of tax exemption and right to use stadia at nominal annual rent. It earns a huge revenue not only by selling tickets to viewers but also selling right to exhibit films live on TV and broadcasting the same. Ordinarily, its full members are the State associations except Association of Indian Universities, Railway Sports Control Board and Services Sports Control Board. As a member of ICC, it represents the country in the international fora. It exercises enormous public functions. It has the authority to select players, umpires and officials to represent the country in the international fora. It exercises total control over the players, umpires and other officers. The Rules of the Board clearly demonstrate that without its recognition no competitive cricket can be hosted either within or outside the country. Its control over the sport of competitive cricket is deeply pervasive and complete.
81. In law, there cannot be any dispute that having regard to the enormity of power exercised by it, the Board is bound to follow the doctrine of ‘fairness’ and ‘good faith’ in all its activities. Having regard to the fact that it has to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of millions, it has a duty to act reasonably. It cannot act arbitrarily, whimsically or capriciously. As the Board controls the profession of cricketers, its actions are required to be judged and viewed by higher standards.”
The question that whether BCCI is a State within the meaning of Art. 12 was also brought before the Hon’ble Court in Zee Telefilms Ltd. Union of India. The Court ruled that the BCCI is not a “State” as defined in the Constitution of India. It held that the Board was neither created by any statute nor did the Government hold any of it shares. The Government did not provide any financial aid to the Board, and even when the Board did enjoy a monopoly status in the field of cricket such status was not State conferred or State protected. Also, there is no deep and persistent control of the State. If at all there is any control it is regulatory in nature like other bodies. All the functions of the Board are not public functions nor are they closely related to governmental functions. Relying on the tests laid down in Pradeep Kumar Biswas case the Court observed that the Board could not be brought within the expression “State” as laid down in the Indian Constitution, as the Board was not financially, functionally or administratively dominated by or under the control of the Government.
While discussing the second part of the issue this Hon’ble Court acknowledged that certain functions discharged by the Board such as the selection of the team, controlling the activities of the players are analogous to public duties and in case of any breach of Constitutional or statutory obligation, the aggrieved party can file a writ petition seeking mandamus under Art. 226 of the Indian Constitution which is wider that Art. 32.
In answer to the first issue, the first part is in the negative qua and affirmative qua the second. The Court held that the Board is not a “State”, but is certainly amenable to writ jurisdiction under Art. 226 of the Indian Constitution.
“Whether Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra were “team officials” of their respective IPL teams- Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals? If so, whether allegations of betting levelled against them stand proved?”
The Probe Committee through its findings concluded that Gurunath Meiyappan was a team official of CSK, emerging from the documents and depositions of the witnesses recorded by it. India Cements Ltd., the owner of the team made a sincere admission that Gurunath Meiyappan was a team official within the meaning of that expression under the rules. The Committee further held that Gurunath Meiyappan was also drawn in betting, this observation was made on the material on hand to it. In regard to the nature of proceedings entrusted to the Committee and the standard of proof applicable to it, the Court agreed with the Committee’s observation on holding that Mr. Meiyappan was indulged in betting. The Court also held that the materials gathered while investigation was safe and dependable for holding that the accusations made against Mr. Meiyappan stood established.
In regards to the allegations made against Mr. Raj Kundra, the Committee held investigation in furtherance to the statement made by Mr. Umesh Goenka, wherein he stated that Mr. Raj Kundra was indulged in betting through him. The Committee based on its investigation further opined that the allegations made against Mr. Raj Kundra and his wife Ms. Shilpa Shetty stands proved; which would constitute severe violation of the IPL Operational Rules, the IPL Anti-Corruption Code and the IPL Code of Conduct for players and the team officials. It was further held that Mr. Raj Kundra and Ms. Shilpa Shetty are undoubtedly the owners as per the franchise agreement and ascribed as such under the IPL Operational Rules; and are hence team officials within the meaning of the said rules. Therefore, making them subject to the Code of Conduct for Players and Team Officials barring betting in course of IPL matches and would face suitable sanctions under the Operational Rules. The Committee further on its findings observed that Mr. Raj Kundra was a “team official”, a “player support personnel” and “participant” within the meaning of the relevant rules and that he had indulged in betting.
Thus the Hon’ble Court has answered the second question in confirmatory.
“If Question (2) is answered in the affirmative, what consequential action in the nature of punishment is permissible under the relevant rules and regulations and against whom?”
According to the abovementioned Operational Rules, every franchise, player, team official, and/or match official is subject to the said Rules. Rule 2.1 made the Operation Rules binding upon each person who participated or was involved with the League. Further, Rule 2.1.4 restricted each person, who was subjected to the Rules, from acting in a manner that would bring disrepute or adversely affect the match or reputation of any person, any team, any player, any team official, BCCI, the League or the game. Rule 6.4 empowers BCCI to impose a sanction enumerated therein, by which any player or another person shall be suspended from playing or involving in matches for a specified period of time. Another permitted sanction is the payment of money either to BCCI or any other person subject to these rules.
The Court reiterated that once Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan and Mr. Raj Kundra are accepted as team officials and are found guilty they both can be made to liable to sanctions mentioned in Rule 6.4. The sanctions are not only limited to the abovementioned individuals but may extend to suspension of the team or the franchise from the League.
“Whether the allegations of cover-up, levelled against Mr. N Srinivasan stand proved. If so, to what effect?”
The Probe Committee in course of its proceedings held that the accusations of match-fixing, spot-fixing, and betting were not proved against Mr. N. Srinivasan.
The Hon’ble Court opined that it cannot be proved that Mr. N. Srinivasan was in possession of any incriminating material and that the same was withheld by him and that appointment of former judges of the High Court cannot be said to be an effort to cover up; as he had stepped aside to evade any allegation being made against him while the proceedings of the Probe Committee were on. Therefore, the Court held that their answer to question no. 4 is in negative.
“Whether Regulation 6.2.4 to the extent permits administrators to have commercial interest in IPL, Champions League and Twenty20 events is legally bad?”
The Court reiterated that the test for determining the validity of the impugned order should be on a threefold basis: (1) whether the amendment is made by the authority competent to do so, (2) whether the authority competent to bring about an amendment has followed the procedure prescribed for the same; and (3) whether the amendment falls foul of any statute or principle of law, violation whereof cannot be countenanced. The Court further held that there exists no frailty in the amendment to Rule 6.2.4 in regards to its legislative competency of the authority that brought the amendment. So long as the forum where the matter was taken up, discussed and a resolution passed was competent to deal with the subject, procedural deficiencies which do not affect the competence of the authority do not matter much. Therefore, we have no hesitation in rejecting the contention that the amendment is bad because the same came up all too suddenly for discussion, without any real research or other work to support it and without adequate notice to the members to think about and usefully contribute to the deliberations.
What has been contended is that as the amendment allows the administrators to hold commercial interest in the events controlled by BCCI, it is violative of an elementary theory of law that “no one can be a judge in his own cause”, acknowledged worldwide as an indispensable facet of the principles of natural justice which must pervade each action taken by BCCI in the performance of its public functions. Thus, the Court held the contention not to be baseless and that it needs careful exploration. The court further held that the amendment to Rule 6.2.4 is bad, which allows the administrators to hold or acquire commercial interest in BCCI like IPL, Champions League Twenty20.
“Whether allegations levelled against Mr Sundar Raman, Chief Operating Officer, IPL, stand proved? If so, to what effect?”
The accusation made against Mr. Sundar Raman is that he did not take any action despite the fact that he had received various information about number of owners/team officials who had indulged in betting. Upon the allegation made against him Mr. Sundar Raman argued that this information was given to him by Mr. V. P. Singh who also told him that the same was not actionable. The Court, in furtherance, issued suitable directions for further investigation into the activities and conduct of Mr. Sundar Raman.
“What orders and directions need be passed in the light of the discussion and answers to Questions (1) to (5) above?”
While answering to questions (ii) and (iii) the Hon’ble Court held that Mr. Meiyappan and Mr. Raj Kundra are found to be guilty of betting and their misconduct renders them liable to the rules referred to in the present case. The Court also held that action can also be taken against the franchises under the said rules. An important issue that arises before the Court for determination in the light of the abovementioned findings is that whether the Court itself should impose the punishment or the same shall be left to BCCI. The Court reiterated that it should be left to the jurisdiction of BCCI to impose the punishment for the misconduct.
The Court further gave the following recommendations with or without suitable amendments of the relevant rules and regulations, for the committee to consider in to order put a stop to sporting frauds, conflict of interests, streamlining the functioning of BCCI to make it more receptive to the expectations of the public at large and to make the practices and procedures followed by the BCCI more transparent. In furtherance, the following order was passed:
(i) The words “excluding events like IPL or Champions League Twenty20” were added to Rule 6.2.4 of the BCCI Regulations for Players, Team Officials, Managers, Umpires and Administrators through an amendment; which the Court affirmed to be void and ineffective.
(ii) A committee was constituted comprising of Hon’ble Mr. Justice R.M. Lodha, former CJI as the chairman; and Former Judges of the Supreme Court of India Hon’ble Justice Mr. Ashok Bhan and Hon’ble Justice Mr. R.V. Raveendran as the members to decide upon the punishment to be imposed upon Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan and Mr. Raj Kundra.
(iii) The abovementioned committee comprising of the three members shall also scrutinize the role of Mr. Sundar Raman and if found blameworthy, impose a suitable punishment. Also, the investigating team constituted before in the present matter shall be made accessible to the newly formed committee.
(iv) The newly formed committee was also requested to give appropriate suggestions to BCCI which shall assist the Board in making reforms and changes in its practices and procedures and it’s Memorandum of Association which proves to be essential and proper on matters laid down by the Court before.
(v) The elections of the Board shall not be affected by the formation of the Committee and all such persons shall be disqualified from contesting the elections who hold any commercial interest in BCCI events and their disqualification shall continue till such time the person holds such commercial interest or till such time the Committee imposes a punishment on them for same, or whichever, is later.
(vi) The amount decided by the Committee as their fees shall be paid by BCCI and all other expenses such as travel, hotel, transport and secretarial services incurred in the course of proceedings shall also be beard by the Board. The payment shall be made in such intervals as fixed by the Committee, and the venue of the proceedings shall also be decided by the Committee.
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